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The Black Keys go back to their roots with swampy cover of John Lee Hooker’s Crawling Kingsnake

Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys performs onstage at the 2020 iHeartRadio ALTer EGO at The Forum on January 18, 2020 in Inglewood, California.
(Image credit: Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

After announcing new blues covers album, Delta Kream, yesterday, The Black Keys have officially released its first single, a version of John Lee Hooker’s 1949 track, Crawling King Snake.

The new rendition, like the album on which it appears, sees Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney go back to their roots, not only in terms of their influences, but also The Black Keys’ grittier, slide-heavy early material.

A bolstered band lineup makes for a more expansive sound than those early Keys cuts, however, with the addition of guitarist Kenny Brown and bassist Eric Deaton – the former sidemen of R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, whose tracks are covered on the record – as well as percussionist Sam Bacco and organ player Ray Jacildo.

Crawling Kingsnake – which Auerbach first heard via Kimbrough’s own rendition, rather than Hooker’s version or the Big Joe Williams original – is among 11 tracks featured on the band’s forthcoming 10th studio effort, which includes covers of tracks by Fred McDowell, Ranie Burnette and Big Joe Williams.

“This is basically folk music on a certain level, and a lot of this music is like hand-me-downs from generation to generation,” Auerbach told Rolling Stone (opens in new tab).

“I’m singing lyrics that are like third-generation wrong lyrics. I’m singing a certain version that Junior recorded where maybe he messed up a line, but that’s the only one I know. So we were really just kind of flying by the seat of our pants.”

Delta Kream is out on May 14 via Nonesuch, and available to preorder via the band's official website (opens in new tab).

The album’s full tracklisting is as follows:

  1. Crawling Kingsnake (John Lee Hooker)
  2. Louise (Mississippi Fred McDowell)
  3. Poor Boy a Long Way From Home (R. L. Burnside)
  4. Stay All Night (Junior Kimbrough)
  5. Going Down South (R. L. Burnside)
  6. Coal Black Mattie (Ranie Burnette)
  7. Do the Romp (Junior Kimbrough)
  8. Sad Days, Lonely Nights (Junior Kimbrough)
  9. Walk with Me (Junior Kimbrough)
  10. Mellow Peaches (Big Joe Williams)
  11. Come on and Go with Me (Junior Kimbrough)

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Michael Astley-Brown
Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism, and has spent the past decade writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar (opens in new tab), Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as the best part of 20 years performing in bands of variable genre (and quality). In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe (opens in new tab).